Monday, January 01, 2007

The Lost Week

So the company was closed down between Christmas and New Years, and I had intentions of making the week off count. Some writing that needed to be done, a short story that needed to be finished, and outline that begged to be completed, some entries to this blog that I've been mulling about for way too long, cleaning up my office, and cutting down on the clutter that is in the downstairs archive room.

In reality, I did none of those things. I did end up playing a lot of games, though, which was nice.

Part of it was the timing. Saturday and Sunday were primarily in prep work for the Holiday Dinner, Monday the dinner itself, and Tuesday the cleanup and a general collapse. Wednesday I ended up doing lunch with an old friend who was getting back into World of Warcraft, and much of Wed and Thur were taken up with grinding up my original Tauren Hunter, Thunderchild, to level 42 (Of sufficient level for a mount, but, unforturnately, not enough gold). Thursday night was gaming with friends, Friday and Saturday with other computer games I have been promising to check out, now that I have a new Dell 1710 Behemoth. Sunday we had an open house for gaming, and today I managed to accomplish one thing on my original list - get to the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit at the Pacific Science Center (an odd venue, since the center is an IMAX-and-hand's-on-demonstration kinda place).

So I've been playing a lot of games.

WoW felt like going back to your own highschool, and now that I have been part of creation of these, I can see a lot of seams and rivets holding the thing together that I didn't notice before. A highpoint was finding Landro Luckshot in Booty Bay, a character I created for Upper Deck for their promotion for the licensed card game (If you run into him, he'll offer a bunch of stuff, but only if you can give him the secret code from the cards). But I am looking at story more, now, since its the sort of thing I've been involved in, and I am very aware of the huge amount of "Go Here Kill This" sort of quests that exist as jumbled chapters in a larger tome.

I also waded through most of the tutorial of Oblivion: Elder Scrolls IV, which is interesting, though off-putting in a number of small ways. The looks for most of the characters look like cavemen from those insurance company commercials, with ruddy looks and heavy jaws. The character animation looks a bit off a well, parts of it too animated (the facial muscles look like they are in continual spasm) while others not nearly enough (one of the guards talking to me in first person reminded me of a South Park character for its animation). The background visuals are stunning. Weirdly enough, the use of recognizable name talent (Patrick Stewart as the king who just happens to need your jail cell to escape the palace) actually is more off-putting than inclusive. The fact you immediately recognize the voice pulls you out of the fantasy. I'm not far enough along in the story to give more comments than that.

The voice talent was also an irritation on Civilization IV, though in this case it was another actor I liked, Leonard Nimoy. Civilization has the same "plot" in each version - you start with a settler in the stone age and you are supposed to get to Alpha Centauri. And Civ II did probably the coolest Wonder cinematics ever put together, which the versions since then - III, VI, and Call to Power, have not managed to pull off. In IV, when you get a new tech, you get a quote, which Nimoy reads aloud. I'm not certain on this, but I think it is going to be a feature I am disengaging. Still getting the hang of the differences in the new version, so I can't really comment much beyond look and feel (the stylized battle animations are nice, and the city construction that makes every city on the board look individual looks good).

In non-computer games I ended up playing Clue Mysteries, Betrayal in the House on Horror Hill, Carcasonne, Ticket to Ride, and kibutzed on Settlers of Catan. Clue Mysteries is an attempt to fix some of the challenges of the original game by providing more plot and characterizations and get it away from that murder-thing (in the mystery we we working on, the "crime" was the discharging of an antique pistol, which didn't even graze anybody). Betrayal is an excellent game in the tradition of Pacesetter's old Black Mourn Manor, and breaks the game into two parts - the explore the house phase, followed by the discover the nameless evil phase, where things go horribly, horribly wrong. As an entertainment, it is better than most of the programming on the SciFi channel, but given the huge number of random variables in the game, one side or the other can be overpowering when the nameless evil is revealed.

Ticket to Ride I got for the Lovely Bride, as we both love train games, but this one may be just a bit TOO competitive, as it is easy to keep an opponent out of particular cities through overbuilding (I ran afoul of her when I took the direct route into Dallas - she has since forgiven me - she says). We did, however, addict The Monkey King to the game, though we understand that there is a kinder, gentler European edition that may be better for our needs. Similar in addictive experiences was teaching Ellie, the wife of one of the Lovely Bride's gaming gang regulars, how to play Settlers. She got into it quickly and deeply. It is a nice reminder of how a well-designed game can just suck you in.

Other than all that gaming, not a lot has been accomplished over the past week. The only other thing that has pulled me away from social and computer gaming has been Thomas Pynchon's latest bugsmasher of a tome, Against the Day. I had finally escaped from the wieghty tomes of Stephenson's Baroque Cycle and this monster lands, and it pulls me in immediately (opening sections involve airships, and I'm a sucker for them). So something else is demanding my time.

And all the stuff I needed to do? I will have to get done, but now within the course of my daily life. I just want to warn all those people who are making the New Years Resolution to "Play More Games" that they may be cursed by their desires.

More later,